The disappointment was forgotten a few months later when the
Georgia native earned a trip to Augusta National for the inaugural Drive, Chip
and Putt Championship finals. The competition, which is conducted by the USGA,
Augusta National and The PGA of America, will bring together 88 youths ages 7
to 15 for a unique event on the Sunday prior to the Masters that will culminate
on Augusta’s 18th green.
Stephens, one of five USGA Members to advance from 11
regional qualifiers, will compete in the Boys 7-9 division.
Stephens clinched his qualifier by holing a downhill,
left-to-right 30-foot putt to total 115 points, 24 ahead of his closest
A third-grader at The Lovett School in Atlanta, Stephens has
been playing golf since he could hold a club. He has competed in numerous
age-group U.S. Kids regional events along with the Future Masters in Dothan,
Ala., and the Bob Burns Tournament in Selma, Ala.
Stephens advanced out of local DCP qualifying in Albany, Ga.,
and won the regional event at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Ga.,
site of this year’s U.S. Amateur Championship.
Stephens travels once or twice a month to Sea Island, Ga. –
a 4½-hour drive from Atlanta – to work with his coaches, including Jared Zak
(full swing), Mike Shannon (putting), Dr. Morris Pickens (mental game) and
Randy Myers (fitness).
“I usually do my homework in the car,” said Stephens.
Not only will Stephens get to compete on the hallowed
grounds of Augusta National, he will also get to take in Monday’s practice
round for the Masters. Although he has attended the Tour Championship at East
Lake Golf Club several times and owns a hat with approximately 50 player autographs,
he has never seen Amen Corner.
Stephens, who plays out of the Piedmont Driving Club, is also
hoping to see players skip the ball across the water, a practice-round
tradition on the par-3 16th hole.
Although the weather in Atlanta has been unseasonably harsh
– two snowstorms pelted the region in February – Stephens has managed to find practice
time. At the regional final, his winning drive measured 174 yards, but he would
like to improve on both his distance and accuracy off the tee.
“Putting is my best [skill],” said Stephens. “I think I need
to work on my driver a lot.”
David Shefter is a
senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.